Biography of Fala D. Roosevelt
The Early Years
Fala was born on April 7, 1940 and given to the President by Mrs. Augustus G. Kellog of Westport, Connecticut through Franklin Roosevelt's cousin, Margaret "Daisy" Suckley. At first his name was Big Boy. Franklin renamed him 'Murray the Outlaw of Falahill' after a Scottish ancestor. His nickname became Fala. Before Fala went to the White House, Daisy taught Fala how to behave and do tricks. He could sit up, rollover, and jump.
The White House Years
Fala went to live in the White House in Washington, DC on November 10, 1940. He spent most of his time there. However, time was also spent at the houses in Hyde Park and Warm Springs, Georgia. While at Hyde Park, Fala often rode in FDR's car, a Ford, which FDR drove with special hand controls because of his paralysis from polio.
Every morning Fala had a bone that was brought up on the President's breakfast tray. Fala got a full dinner every night. Throughout the day, Fala would beg for food from the White House staff. He was so cute that the staff could not resist feeding him and he became sick. The President then directed the staff not to feed him extra food. At night, he slept in a special chair at the foot of the President's bed.
Fala loved to travel with the President on long and short trips by train, car, or boat. As the nearly constant companion of the President, Fala met many famous visitors and entertained them with the tricks he had learned as a puppy. His most impressive trick was curling his lip into a smile.
In August 1941, Fala was at the Atlantic Charter Conference in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland with the President and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of England.
In September of the following year and again in April 1943, Fala went on inspection trips of defense plants and visited the President of Mexico, President Camacho. Later that year in August and then again in September 1944 he accompanied President Roosevelt to the Quebec Conferences.
In 1944, Fala was with the President on a sea trip to the Aleutian Islands. Someone started a rumor that Fala was accidentally left on one of the islands, and that the Navy had to send a ship back to retrieve him. During the 1944 presidential campaign, the Republicans accused the President of spending millions of taxpayers' dollars in the effort to get Fala back. The President answered the attack in his famous 'Fala speech' while talking to the Teamsters Union. Roosevelt defended his little dog Fala saying, "These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them." The President defended his little dog against the attacks.
Although the story of being left behind on the Aleutian Islands was false, Fala did cause some trouble once on the ship Tuscalosa in the West Indies. It was a hot day and the sailors were trying to cool off by lying on the deck.
Stretched out in a row, their bare feet were lined up. Fala caused quite a commotion by moving quickly along the row licking and tickling their feet.
The President loved the water and so did Fala. Once while the President was on a fishing trip off the coast of Florida, Fala discovered a new trick for himself. He noticed that as the fish were caught and thrown in a pile on the deck, they would all flip-flop back and forth and up in the air. To Fala it looked like so much fun that he began to flip-flop around just like the fish: and he continued to do so for several days.
While in the White House, Fala was so popular that he received thousands of letters from people and animals from across the country. He had a secretary appointed to him to answer all his fan his mail. One letter dated August 5, 1947, was from a poodle named Abigail. Fala had chased a skunk once, and the incident ended up being very unpleasant for everyone involved. The poodle scolded Fala for not acting with more intelligence and dignity. In the 1940s, two movies were made about Fala. One focused on his life in the White House and the other on his life in Hyde Park.
Fala in Retirement
In April of 1945, President Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia. Fala attended the funeral but seemed lost without his beloved master. He went to live with Mrs. Roosevelt at Val-Kill, where he spent his time running, playing and chasing squirrels and cats. Eventually Mrs. Roosevelt brought Fala's grandson, Tamas McFala to live at Val-Kill, and be Fala's playmate. Sometimes they would run off together only to come home hours later covered with burrs and mud. All in all it was a restful retirement from his days at the feet of President Roosevelt in the glare of the Washington spotlight. On April 5, 1952, Fala passed away and was buried in the Rose Garden next to the sun dial not far from the graves of President and Mrs. Roosevelt on what would have been his twelfth birthday April 7, 1952.
Franklin Roosevelt at Hyde Park. American Artists Group (no date given)
Off the Record, with FDR 1942 - 1945. Rutgers University Press, 1958
Rosenman, Samuel I.
Working With Roosevelt Harper Brothers, 1952.
Sherwood, Robert E.
Roosevelt and Hopkins. Harper Brothers, 1948.
Suckley, Margaret "Daisy".
The True Story of Fala. Scribner Sons, 1942.This volume may be purchased through the Museum Store at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York, 1-800-337-8474.
Tully, Grace T.
FDR, My Boss. Charles Scribner & Sons, 1949. pp.128 -132